One of President Donald Trump’s most trusted religious confidantes used ominous religious language to defend him this week, drawing on Christian nationalism to argue that resisting Trump equates to resisting “the hand of God.”
During a panel interview on the Jim Bakker show this Monday, pastor Paula White gave several full-throated defenses of the president. White, a wealthy faith leader who originally gained notoriety for preaching a much-maligned version of the “prosperity gospel,” has been described as Trump’s “God whisperer.” She is a longtime friend of the former businessman, was a regular surrogate for his campaign in 2016, and remains one of several evangelical leaders who currently advise his administration.
But even compared to her brief stint on the campaign trail, White’s remarks this week were atypically political and represent some of the strongest statements yet making the Christian nationalist case for Trump.
After insisting that America is more than 70 percent evangelical (a claim that is wildly false), White launched into a series of mini-sermons that described Trump’s presidency as “anointed” by God—and proclaimed that his opponents, by extension, are an affront to the Almighty.
“We are more impressed with a Saul anointing than a David anointing because we are more impressed with what looks right than what is right,” White, whose ministries were once the subject of a failed Senate probe investigating possible financial improprieties, said. “Therefore, we choose things that we think should sound right, should act right. They say about our president, ‘Well, he is not presidential.’ Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness … he is not a polished politician. In other words, he is authentically — whether people like it or not — has been raised up by God. Because God says that He raises up and places all people in places of authority.”
She continued: “It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.”
The claim that God has raised up Trump for leadership is common among certain subset of Trump’s religious advisers—namely, Christian nationalists. Like White, right-wing evangelicals such as Robert Jeffress and Lance Wallnau have repeatedly claimed that Trump has been placed into power by the Almighty, and that while he may not be morally perfect, neither were other kings such as Cyrus and David who were appointed by God in the Old Testament.
It is unclear how leaders such as White and Jeffress—who once said President Barack Obama was “paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist”—apply this standard to other presidents.
Modern Christian nationalists often insist that America was founded as a “Christian nation,” and that modern-day Christians must work to restore it to its roots. Though the historical merits of this position are heavily contested, White reiterated it with abandon in her interview with Bakker.
After reportedly arguing that America was not founded “to slaughter babies”—and, confusingly, acknowledging that the country was never intended to have a state religion—White declared the country was instead set up to be a base for Christian mission work.
“When our forefathers came over…They took their crosses when they landed at Plymouth and when they walked that beach area and put their white crosses down and dedicated this land and said that it would be a lighthouse for God and send missionaries around the world so that the Gospel will be preached,” White said. “That was the original intention for this particular nation. We must take back our school systems, take back our families, take back our homes, take back our nation.”
“We were not sent into this earth to fit in. We weren’t just sent here to be a part. We were sent here to take over.”
The “we” in her speech was clearly directed at like-minded Christians, and represents yet another feature of contemporary Christian nationalism. A subset of evangelicals ascribe to an ideology sometimes referred to as “dominionism,” or the idea that Christians are called to have dominion over everything on the earth—including politics.
White also appeared to articulate a version of dominionism at the tail end of one of her rapid-fire sermons during her appearance on the Jim Bakker show. After saying that being asked by God to stand up and defend Trump on television may not be popular, she launched into a lengthy homily in which she argued that Trump’s presidency is part of a holy “transition” set in motion by God.
“God is going to bring deliverence. But the question is whether you will be a part of it,” she said. She then repeatedly asked listeners if they will take action before concluding: “We were not sent into this earth to fit in. We weren’t just sent here to be a part. We were sent here to take over.”
The crowd roared in response.
White went on to say that everyone should pray for the president. Their prayers, she maintained, were crucial: She noted that “darkness” can’t overcome Trump because he “surrounds himself with Christians.”
“We are scaring the literal hell out of demonic spirits right now,” White said. “Because if we get two more [justices], we will be able to overturn demonic laws and decrees that has [sic] held this nation in captivity.”
White is one of several religious leaders who fielded calls to cut ties Trump after he defended white nationalists during a press conference following the tragic death of a protester in Charlottesville. Only African American megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board — a group formed during the campaign that now advises him informally — has so far chosen to step down.
Despite speaking at length in defense of the president, White had little to say about the controversy on Monday. She spoke against forms of “supremacy” in general, but at no point did she criticize Trump’s claim that there were “very fine people” marching with white supremacists in Charlottesville.